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From the weird to the downright plain evil, ECC Ireland has heard many consumer rights horror stories. So, with Halloween almost upon us, we thought it would be a spooktacular idea to disect some of these complaints so hopefully you’ll be able to keep the ghouls at bay. Disclaimer – crucifixes, garlic, and protection potions are extra (terms and conditions apply).

As always, we have the consumer success story of the month which looks at how ECC Ireland helped a consumer avail of the trader’s ‘best price guarantee’ promise. The consumer query answers a very common question, the difference between a guarantee/warranty provided by a manufacturer/seller and your statutory rights when a good is faulty.

You can download a PDF version here or read on.

Halloween

 

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Frightfully wacky and devilish consumer complaints

It’s not just during Halloween that consumer fall foul of scams, problems with their orders or availing of their rights, or some traders trying to pull a fast one. Whether there is a full moon or not, there are problems experienced by consumers in Ireland and throughout Europe all year round. Have a look at just some of the complaints received by ECC Ireland, if you dare!!!!!

 

When your purchase turns into a pumpkin, or a potato

One seemingly normal day, we received a call from a consumer who ordered a phone online from a trader he thought was based in the EU/EEA. When the package arrived he excitedly opened it up to find a potato. Yes, you read correctly, one weird looking potato. The perplexed consumer tried to contact the trader, who, as it turns out, was based in China and enquired about how he came to acquire such an expensive vegetable. It is believed that the phone may have been swapped for the potato sometime during transit in order to mimic the weight. However, the true origin of this potato still remains a mystery. As the trader is this case was based outside the EU/EEA, the best redress was for the consumer to avail of chargeback with his bank/credit card provider.

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Your rights when don’t get what you ordered:

If you don’t get what you purchased (when the good is not conformity with the contract) then you have certain rights under EU legislation. Check out our buying goods and services page for more information about your rights and what to do. It’s also important to do your research when shopping online.

 

Things that go bump in the night, in your hotel room

The last thing you want when you go on holidays is an unexpected roommate. Some people get cockroaches, but one woman got a pest of the otherworldly kind. The woman booked a room in a Spanish hotel for herself and her son for one night. During the night she awoke to find her son screaming claiming that he had seen a ghost. Apparently, he even took a photo of the apparition on his phone. When she informed the front desk, they claimed the son must have used a Snapchat filter. However, she could see other staff nearby ‘whispering very nervously’. She requested to change rooms or get a refund, but this was refused. As she had failed to put the complaint in writing when still at the hotel there was nothing further that could be done – except call Ghostbusters!

 

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Your rights when there is a problem with your hotel booking:

When you pay for an accommodation booking, whether directly with the provider or through a third-party intermediary, then you are agreeing to the terms and conditions so it’s very important to read this thoroughly. This also means that the trader must hold up their end of the bargain. Put simply, you should get what you paid for. However, if this turns out to not be the case then you should report the matter (including in writing) while at the hotel giving the trader the opportunity to rectify the situation. If you fail to do this, only reporting the matter when you get home, then it can be very difficult to seek redress. If your hotel accommodation is part of a package holiday then other rights may apply and you should report the matter to your local representative or the organiser, and if it’s not resolved then put your complaint in writing to the organiser within 28 days of your return home. In all cases, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible (photos, videos etc).

Click here for tips on how to complain effectively.

 

Mysterious packages turning up on the doorstep

A consumer contacted ECC Ireland recently to complain that a package containing sunglasses arrived in the post from China, which was strange as she didn’t order it. Confused but determined to find out more, she searched online and found that many consumers, from other European countries, had complained about receiving unsolicited goods/packages from this trader. Further investigation revealed that the consumer had been the latest victim of what is known as ‘brushing’, whereby unsolicited goods are sent in an attempt to improve the rankings of online traders and boost sales. There seems to be no payment taken for the package, nor additional demands for payment, just packages, sometimes quite a lot, which is quite hellish in itself. Wouldn’t you agree?

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Your rights when you receive unsolicited goods:

Many other cases of unsolicited goods reported to ECC Ireland and the wider ECC Network have unfortunately come with demands for payment. However, if you have not ordered the goods and/or given your explicit consent, then you are not required to pay for or return a package. For more information go to:

 

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Consumer success story of the month:

An Irish consumer made an accommodation booking through a third-party online marketplace, which advertised the listing as the best price available. However, the consumer later found that the hotel itself was advertising the booking at the same price and including breakfast and a free cancellation option. Another booking website offered the exact same booking at a much lower price. The consumer contacted the trader to receive the best price guarantee. The trader first said that they would refund the difference but then fail to provide this. The consumer got in contact with ECC Ireland who sought the help of ECC Netherlands. The trader was contacted and subseqently agreed to refund the difference in the price of €150.93 for the booking and offered to reimburse the breakfast costs following the consumer’s stay.

Consumer query of the month:

Q: I purchased a smartphone in July 2017 from an online marketplace trader. For the past few months it has been experiencing problems with the SIM card. I contacted the manufacturer to request a repair, as I believed it to be still under the EU-wide ‘legal guarantee’ of two years. However, after several exchanges, including sending the phone for repair, I was informed that my phone was not covered under their manufacturing warranty, which is only 12 months and that I would have to pay €140 to repair the unit. I contested that as I had bought it from an EU based trader I could still avail of my statutory rights if there is a fault. They responded as the unit was purchased from a UK trader and ‘the UK did not adopt the EU law you have mentioned at the time the device was purchased’. Is this correct?

A: EU consumer legislation (as transposed into the national legislation of all EU countries, which for now, includes the UK) applies and has been in effect long before the purchase of your phone.

In relation to your rights, firstly it’s important to know that a guarantee or warranty provided by the seller or manufacturer is in addition to, not instead of, your statutory rights (the EU ‘legal guarantee’ that you mentioned). So, when the manufacturer stated that its warranty was only 12 months then it was right in stating that this can no longer apply. However, you can still avail of your statutory rights against the seller – this is who you have the contract of sale with.

EU consumer legislation (The Sale of Goods and Associated Guarantees Directive 99/44/EC) entitles consumers across Europe to seek this redress (like repair/replacement) from the seller when a good is not in conformity (e.g. faulty) for a period of at least two years. The limitation period can be longer in some countries, for example, in Ireland it is six years. We would therefore advise you to put your complaint in writing to the seller, outlining your rights, under EU and UK legislation, and request the appropriate redress.

For more information read this press release (ECC Ireland calls on all traders to comply with obligations and remember that guarantees / warranties are in addition to consumers’ statutory rights) we issued earlier this year as well as our statutory rights versus guarantees infographic.

 

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If you want more information about this or any other cross-border consumer issue, please contact us on 01 8797 620 or go to www.eccireland.ie. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Martina Nee

Press and Communications Manager

The European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting customers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is funded by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the European Consumer Centre cannot be held responsible for matters arising from any errors or omissions contained in this publication. The information provided is intended as a guide only and not as a legal interpretation.

© 2018 – European Consumer Centre (Ireland), CLG incorporated in Ireland, No. 367035, Registered Charity No. 20048617 – CHY14708. Located at MACRO Centre, 1 Green Street, Dublin 7.

This ebulletin was funded by the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020).

The content of this ebulletin represents the views of the author only and it is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture, and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA) or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.

 

Competition and consumer protection commission